Buying Advice: Your First Serious Bass Guitar
As my favorite tee shirt reads: “We Don’t Want No Treble.” Today’s blog is for the low end, the emerging bassist who wants to move up from his or her first bass into a serious bass to perform and grow with. Some of the advice in today’s blog is identical to my advice on buying your first serious guitar and all the advice is built on the notion that you’re going to be playing and expanding your skill with the next bass you buy for quite a long time, be patient in deciding which one you want to spend your money on.
Like my advice for your first serious electric guitar, as you play bass and improve your skill, your interests and musical direction will evolve too. Tha’ts my primary reason for recommending that even if you do have some cash to spend, don’t go for the boutique, high priced bass of your dreams right away. Unless of course, the bass of your dreams is moderately priced in which case disregard what I just wrote. Also, looks are great and attractive but when your playing it, the critical elements are sound and feel. And as you own it, the critical feature is quality of construction, durability and reliability.
Before you head out for a “serious” bass, you should already have a good idea what you’re looking for. Do you want a Jazz type bass, a Precision type, an alternative style such as the Steinberger that comes without a headstock, a semi-hollow or something bat shaped?
If this is your first serious bass, you’re probably going to take a look at Fender basses. Some people believe that from top to bottom, Fender has great basses. I’m one of those people and I truly believe that Fender basses are a must try while you’re shopping even if you buy something else. My biggest gripe with Fender basses, and it’s a petty gripe, is that so many of them have pickguards with not option to buy one without. I love the Fender Geddy Lee Jazz Bass, but it only comes with a pickguard. A bass needs a pickguard like a fish needs a bicycle.
Bass players usually use their fingers, some a thumb and some do use a pick. So what? Bass players are the coolest members of the band. We’re not hyperactive guitarists and even if we do use a pick, we don’t strum and swing it all over the place. I would support a constitutional amendment banning the use of pickguards on bass guitars. Join me in this quest if you have nothing else ot do with your life.
So here are my choices for your first “serious” bass guitar:
- Fender Standard Precision Bass (there’s one at American Musical Supply’s outlet zone for $539 with a gig bag in the scratch & dent category – if interested, click on the banner on the right for AMS – it won’t be there long!)
- Ibanez SR700 Bass – for about $700 this is a fantastic bass, thin neck, lightweight mahogany body, wonderfully balanced and superb sound. Nice job Ibanez.
- MTD Kingston Artist Electric Bass for about $730 this is a wonderfully designed and excellent playing bass.
- Schecter Raden Elite for aroung $540 is a solid performer.
- Fender Blacktop Jazz Bass for about $500 it’s a beautiful instrument.
- Yamaha Billy Sheehan Bass – for about $700 it’s awesome and absolutely worth a good look.
- Washburn Force – Washburn? Yes, for about $550 it’s a very solid performer
- Spector Legend – tips the scales at around $700 & this maker of excellent basses has this offering that’s not in the pricing stratosphere
- Sterling by Music Man Ray34 – for $660 or so you get legendary Music Man performance in their imported models.
- Warwick Rocktron Streamer LX4 – Warwick really delivers for about $600
The pricing on these basses is for 4 string models. Almost all have 5 string versions for about $50 more.
Other basses that I think are very worthy contenders that you should consider are The G & L Tribute L-2000 ($660) and JB-2 ($600), Fender Standard Jazz Bass ($600), Fender Standard P Bass ($580), and ESP/LTD 414FM Flamed Maple a beautiful instrument ($700).
If you can stretch a little higher priced items, you’re getting into some serious investment and some great choices too. My favorite is Fender Geddy Lee Jazz bass ($1000) and it would be at the top of the list above except for my tendency to keep the price of the first serious bass modest. Other great basses for a bit more are Lakland Skyline ($824), Jackson Chris Beattie Signature Bass ($760), Fernandes Revelle Bass ($900), and Ibanez Premium 1200E Bass ($1000).
Because of the nature of bassists, being the coolest people in the band and probably on the planet, many stick with their first serious bass for a long time if not forever. Most that I know, at the very least, don’t get rid of their first serious bass. One think I highly recommend is that some of these basses, as well made as they are, especially the import versions of higher priced American basses, come with a plastic nut. To me, that’s a very poor way to save a couple of production dollars but they do it anyway. If you play a few basses and fall in love with one, if it has a plastic nut switch it for a bone, mircata or tusq nut right away. It won’t cost much and will absolutely enhance the performance of your new bass.
Best advice: go shopping, try a bunch of basses and enjoy every second of the journey. Don’t rush, get it right and that means get it right for you.
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o what’s your opinion? Do you have a suggestion for the first serious bass? Let me hear about it. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or reply on this blog. Be Heard. Prof. Dave